May 27, 2016 Weekly Round Up

It has been a busy couple of weeks around here, sorry for the delay in Weekly Round Up posts!  Recently, Atascoca County Extension Agent, Dale Rankin, had me present online to a couple of different extension meetings in south Texas.  Next up, I traveled to Austin to attend the Stiles Farm Legislative Field Day.  There were a number of legislators and their staffers at this event, where we were able to showcase and educate about agriculture and issues important to the industry.  Kudos to Ryan Collett and his team for putting this together.  Last week I made my way east for presentations in Palestine and Lufkin.  Many thanks to CEAs Jo Smith, Truman Lamb, Cary Sims, Aaron Low, and others for helping to coordinate these events.  To all of you joining us from these events, welcome!

Here are some of the ag law stories in the news recently.

* US Fish and Wildlife Drops Lesser Prairie Chicken Appeal.  You may recall from this prior blog post that a federal judge in Texas vacated the listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken as “threatened” pursuant to the Endangered Species Act.  The judge found that the USFWS failed to properly consider voluntary conservation efforts by landowners and industry groups before listing the bird.  Initially, the government appealed this decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, but earlier this month, the government announced that it would not be pursuing the appeal.  For now, this means that the bird is not protected under the Endangered Species Act.  However, the USFWS can certainly reconsider whether to list the bird, being careful to analyze the information that the court found it failed to adequately consider last time.  We will keep an eye on this situation.  [Read article here.]

Photo via Sally Paez, Santa Fe, NM

Condemnation Suits Filed Against 45 Big Bend Landowners.  We have been following this issue for quite sometime, but lawsuits have now been filed against landowners in the Big Bend area by Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Trans-Pecos pipeline that will bring natural gas from the Permian Basin to Mexico.  The Texas Observer recently published an article discussing some of the difficulties landowners face in fighting for just compensation for their land.  [Read article here.]

* San Antonio Water Systems Approves Vista Ridge Project Takeover.  The controversial pipeline from Burleson County to San Antonio appears to still be on track.  Last week, the San Antonio Water Systems approved the takeover of the project by a Kansas City-based company after the original bidder filed bankruptcy.  [Read article here.]

* Court Awards Attorney Fees for Plaintiffs in Idaho “Ag Gag” Case.  A group of animal rights plaintiffs have been awarded over $250,000 in attorney’s fees by an Idaho federal court after successfully challenging the state’s “ag gag” law.  Meanwhile, an appeal filed by Idaho remains pending.  [Read article here.]

 *  Advice for Executors of an Estate.  When a person is asked to serve as an executor of an estate (sometimes called an administrator of the estate), it can be confusing and overwhelming.  Serving in this role is a great responsibility.  Recently, the Chronicle Journal published an article discussing some things a person might think about before agreeing to serve in this capacity.  [Read article here.]

* Don’t forget our free leasing workshops!  One more reminder about the FREE leasing workshops coming up next week in Stillwater, OK (June 1) and Ft. Worth, TX (June 3).  There will be another program later in Amarillo, TX (June 23).  For more info, click here.

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